Since the success of Toy Story, in 1995, studios have been trying to emulate Pixar’s one hundred percent hit rate when it comes to CG films. In fact studios themselves were born, purely to capitalise on the public’s ever growing appetite for CG animated films. To that end Sony Pictures Animation came to life and their first film, Open Season, hit the theatres in 2006 becoming, if you believe the hype, a box office success and Sony’s number two DVD release of that year. Is all this hype worth your investment? Does a bear do its business in the woods? The answer to both questions, when related to Open Season, as we shall see, is no.
In essence the story boils down to a ‘buddy movie’; Boog is a domesticated grizzly bear living in the garage of his keeper, Beth, and performs, with her, on stage under the guise of teaching the audience. Elliot is a scrawny, fast talking ‘A.D.H.D.’ deer. When the two meet and embark on a rampage hyped up on sugar, Beth makes the hard choice to release Boog back into the wild, but complications arise with the timing, for hunting season is but three days away and once ‘open season’ starts will Boog be safe on his own? Ok, so we can see that there is little originality in the story; a wild one drives a calm one into a situation beyond his understanding and control, resulting in a ‘punishment’ that forces the two to become friends against their will, and working together they then overcome a threatening situation. A clichéd formula, much? Seen it before, much? As such, Open Season is already on an uphill path, because the film does not stray from this obvious plot at any stage; those of us with any filmic savvy will know the plot the second the two main characters meet, from then it’s just a case of join the dots to the typically sappy ending.
Still, at least with likeable characters a tired plot line can be given new life, right?. And here’s Open Season’s second problem, Boog is voiced by Martin Lawrence and Elliot by Ashton Kutcher, neither of which have the presence or the ability to bring an animated character to life, let alone characters that needed to bring a script to life! Aside from Bad Boys and The Butterfly Effect respectively I struggle to think of any films that either have made of any worth, so to rely so heavily on these two to raise a mediocre film to greatness is pure madness. Boog’s journey is that of a typically domesticated animal, unable to fend for himself, or stand up for himself, he can neither fish nor do his business in the woods, needing an actual toilet! In these situations Lawrence’s voice is adequate for the part. However, upon Boog’s transformation to forest leader, rallying the ‘troops’ he fails to ignite that passion needed, even the nods to Braveheart remind us of how badly this acting, and scripting, is. Elliot, on the other hand, is full of life, bouncing around the set in the typically over the top, manic behaviour needed to separate these two characters outlook on life; Kutcher just manages to pull this off, but when it comes to his humility he doesn’t even come close. Perhaps a Frankenstein meld of the two actors would have produced one good performance!
Ah well, at least we can fall back on the comedy. Or not. Unfortunately Open Season aims low. Instead of treating kids like little adults, it treats them like kids, and not very bright ones at that. Typically low brow humour with little or no wit means that kids under five may get some enjoyment out of it, but anyone older will be struggling to raise a smile. Even the slapstick falls, ummm, flat. It comes to something when I proudly produce this 3D disc to my own kids expecting a “wow” response and all that I get back is distain. When I asked why, they say they’ve seen it before – not the film, just everything in it. Out of the mouth of babes, huh?
The thing is, the film is not that bad, it’s just tired and obvious. But here’s the rub. In this, it’s 3D guise, the film looks utterly spectacular; clearly the best 3D presentation to date, more on which in the picture section. Talk about your Catch-22! If ever there was a case for ‘leaving your brain at the door’ then this is it – Open Season is nothing to watch, but everything to see!
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